Europe should learn to defend its values

19.04.06

MOSCOW. (Mikhail Margelov for RIA Novosti) -- People of any race or religion
should feel at home in the streets of European cities - this is a basic
European value. But Europe should be able to protect its values and rebuff
Nazi actions wherever they might take place. Neo Nazism undermines these
values from within.

Tolerating neo-Nazism means rejecting everything that shapes European
identity today, and losing appeal for the rest of the world. Neo-Nazism is
destroying European integration, which rests on plurality and diversity of
cultures. It is clear that the attitude to immigrants has sharply
deteriorated in European countries. Quite often hatred of "aliens" and
"colored" is not even concealed. It is being used as an instrument of
propaganda at elections and referendums. We cannot ignore this, aware of the
consequences of such propaganda.

Last year the world community celebrated 60 years since the end of World War
II. We recalled not only the aftermath of this massacre, which took a toll
of 55 million lives, or the decisive Allied victory on the European theatre.
We also pondered over the reasons of the war because Nazism emerged in the
very heart of Europe, and it was in Europe that it committed heinous crimes,
including the Holocaust.

Now that the European values of respect for human rights have been perceived
far beyond the continent, we should look at European history once again. We
do not want to rewrite this history, as some are trying to do, but to make
sure that its darker moments are not repeated. European values have to be
protected, and not against outside attacks but against the phenomenon which
is alien to these values, but typical of the same Europe. I mean the
alarming cases testifying to the revival of Nazi elements, to the activity
of the Nazi underground.

Nuremberg has become part and parcel of the legal mentality of the European
nations. We know about trials for Nazi actions in Britain, Germany, Austria
and Russia. We know that strict laws prohibit Nazism in Poland, Italy,
Bulgaria, etc. But I won't list all cases of Nazi manifestations and
punishment for them. Everyone should know how the matters stand in his or
her country. I'll talk only about certain trends, which I find alarming. I'm
sure, my concern is shared by others.

Young people marching hand in hand with SS veterans in some European
capitals and ethnic hate murders in St. Petersburg or Voronezh are not
subculture excesses. They testify to the rebirth of criminal ideology. Human
rights champions register these numerous cases. But the power of neo-Nazism
is not even in the frequency of its manifestations but in society's
connivance at it. It is indifference that makes possible the rebirth of an
ideology, which seemed to have been buried forever.

Young German neo-Nazis and members of the British Combat-18 and White Wolves
are also staging pogroms. The number of neo-Nazi groups is growing in Spain,
Austria, the Czech Republic, and Germany. Sometimes neo-Nazi associations
disassociate themselves from violence, saying that they are merely
observers, but these are "participating observers". We will all join this
category if we continue being indifferent.

Internet is full of neo-Nazi sites. Many are in Russian. A recent episode in
a Moscow synagogue shows that their influence is tangible. The Jewish Agency
reports that anti-Semitic attitudes are growing not only in Ukraine but also
in Russia. These sites carry ads on the purchase and sale of Nazi
paraphernalia, and even instructions for making bombs.

Neo-Nazi groups are becoming transnational. German skinheads take part in
actions in the Czech Republic; racist publications in Russian are printed in
Finland. Extremists have emerged in the countries with a high level of
tolerance. Let's recall the first ethnic hate murder in modern history in
Norway in January 2005. Five Norwegian neo-Nazis were arrested during the
investigation. It is alarming that in some countries authorities pursue
lenient policy towards Nazi propaganda. Only this year the Latvian
authorities eventually made a feeble protest against the march of ex-SS men
on March 16.

Meanwhile, SS on par with SD and Gestapo were qualified in Nuremberg as
criminal organizations. The ideas of the Nuremberg Tribunal are identical
with the values of modern Europe. We cannot sacrifice these values to
protect the rights of neo-Nazis and totalitarian ideas.

The complaint of the Russian National Bolsheviks who were denied
registration is now under review in Strasbourg. I do not know what evidence
the defendants and plaintiffs submitted to the Court but the extremist and
anti-democratic aspirations of this party are well known in Russia. The
leadership of another Russian Party, Rodina (Homeland), underwent changes
under pressure of public opinion, which accused it of fanning ethnic strife.
It is hard to predict whether it will change its ideology.

In any event, the young civil society in Russia is not idle. Last month it
established an Association of Civil Resistance to Nazism (ACRN). Today
almost two thirds of Russian citizens believe that neo-Nazis pose real
danger. One third of those polled last March reported that there were
advocates of Nazi ideas in their cities. The ACRN urged the Federal Assembly
to "immediately appraise anti-xenophobic and anti-Nazi laws, and enhance
control over their observance". The Russian judicial system avoids
qualifying cases involving pogroms and murders on racial or religious
grounds by the substance of the matter, and tends to reduce them to
hooliganism, robbery or domestic violence. It is alarming that in some cases
public opinion represented by the jury sympathizes with those who are
charged with fanning religious or national strife. Some defendants even get
a verdict of non-guilty. The Russian public was stunned by the recent
decision of the jury to acquit the suspects charged with murdering a Tajik
girl in St. Petersburg. Several days later, a black girl was killed in the
same city. Simultaneously, a manual on street terror with detailed
instructions of how to "harass the Coloreds" appeared in Internet.

Manifestations of Nazi ideology and actions are a challenge to the
Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE). The mission of this
organization is to defend democracy and human rights. It should parry this
challenge by resolutions and conventions. It would be appropriate to recall
in this context the European Conference Against Racism, organized by the
European Commission Against Racism and Intolerance, and national round table
discussions of this subject. We should vigorously step up our efforts to
combat racism and intolerance in line with the action plan adopted by the
third summit of the Council of Europe in Warsaw.

We should bring these ideas home to the public and political leaders in
order to compel them to discuss the problem without bias. Otherwise, we will
have to merely regret the mounting number of Nazi manifestations. It is also
very important to remember that Hitler came to power though a democratic
procedure.

Mikhail Margelov is the Chairman of the Federation Council Committee on
International Affairs, and PACE Vice Speaker.